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Forum Post: Government the Exploiter, Not the Protector

Posted 12 years ago on Dec. 27, 2011, 6:26 p.m. EST by catlover (1)
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Government the Exploiter, Not the Protector by Sheldon Richman http://www.fff.org/comment/com0607b.pdf

If you begin with an incorrect premise, you are bound to arrive at bad conclusions. Nowhere is this more true than in matters of government. The debates over the “war on terror,” the Iraqi occupation, and the Bush administration’s casual approach to civil liberties are premised on the idea that the primary mission of the government in Washington is to protect the American people from harm. Wrong. None of the governments we are familiar with was established primarily to protect the general population. Rather, they were set up to enable a privileged class to extract wealth from the general population. They taxed the people to provide subsidies and restricted trade to create monopoly advantage. To keep a good thing going, of course, rulers afforded the people some protection, lest an outside power horn in on the action. But the objective was always to keep the goose laying the golden eggs. Rulers regularly reminded the people about the protection, while keeping the exploitation obscured. Thus the people came to regard their government as a protector, although, invariably, the thing they needed protection from most was ... their “own” government. Americans might concede this point with respect to other people’s governments, but not the one they live under. They have swallowed the story of American exceptionalism hook, line, and sinker. But human nature being what it is, we should be surprised to find an actual government that doesn’t have exploitation at its heart. The moment the political authority imposes taxes, exploitation is born, along with two irreconcilable groups: the tax producers and the tax consumers. The former include anyone who works and trades in the marketplace; the latter, those who live off the former: the government’s personnel and those with political connections. For example, tax money pays government contractors to build things the powerful want built. This is in contrast to the free market, in which entrepreneurs make things consumers want. Government privilege includes tariffs, which keep low-priced imports out of the market, and the myriad regulations, taxes, licenses, and other restrictions that stifle competition. Throughout modern history, liberal — that is, laissez-faire — movements have arisen to oppose exploitation and to defend the freedom of individuals to work, trade, and live as they wish. The liberal movement that arose in the American colonies came close to formulating a consistent program, but as the new country was formed, power was assumed by those with the old-fashioned mercantilist view that government exists to exploit the industrious. Early America had tariffs, land grants, patents, and cash subsidies. The libertarian rhetoric often remained, but the mercantilists were in charge. This perspective helps us to better understand American foreign policy, which is integral to the mercantilist system. The American people’s security was not at stake in most of the foreign adventures American presidents have undertaken. Security became an issue only after intervention created resentment against the United States. The national government then had new excuses to flex its muscles at the expense of the people, while appearing to protect them from the danger it had created. U.S. intervention — in the Middle East, in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America — has been portrayed as necessary for national security, but in fact has been part of the system of privilege that harms most Americans. That system brought the blowback of September 11, 2001. But instead of people’s getting wise to the game, 9/11 only reinforced it by furnishing a pretext for even more government power, intrusion, and exploitation. Rulers have long played the security card with great agility. Don’t watch us too closely or put restrictions on us, they say, or we will be unable to protect you from those who wish to harm you. People with a penchant for trusting politicians will find that persuasive. But those with some knowledge of the history of government see through the charade. Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation, author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine. Visit his blog “Free Association” at www.sheldonrichman.com. This article



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[-] 1 points by LSN45 (535) 12 years ago

Well said!

Here's my 2 cents:

There are a lot of improvements that need to be made. The list of reforms Americans want to see is long and varied depending on who you talk to. That said, I believe there is ONE reform that would provide the American people the best chances of seeing other meaningful reforms actually happen - that is REAL, loop-hope free CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM! I have seen others on this site calling this the "fulcrum" or pivotal issue. Right now the current legalized bribery, pay-to-play system of campaign donations and paid lobbyists has disenfranchised the American voter. Until this is fixed, any other reform the politicians may try to placate us with (be it a change to healthcare, clamping down predatory school loans, new financial regulations, etc.) will be about as effective as a farmer putting a new roof on his CHICKEN COOP, but still letting the FOX guard it.

We need to go back to the original political currency. Instead of the current system of who can collect the most money from corporations and special interests it should be who has the BEST IDEAS to EFFECTIVELY RUN THE COUNTRY (we don't need "Wealth Redistribution," what we need is "Political Influence Redistribution")!

For the sake of our children and future generations of Americans, we need to take back our democracy from the rich and powerful who are using their vast sums of money to "speak" as if they represent millions of Americans. This "Corporate Personhood" that has crept into our laws is allowing them to manipulating our policies in their favor at the expense of the average American (the recent "Citizens United" Supreme Court ruling is a miscarriage of justice and must be reversed. The $50 or $100 a normal American may give to a political campaign becomes meaningless when corporations or other special interests are handing our millions to buy political access to the decision making process.

For decades now the corporations and special interests have had our "representatives" bought and paid for (both on the right and the left). Concentrating our efforts on getting the money out of our politics is the best way we can create an environment in which further reforms can be realized. Until we end the current system of legalized bribery (campaign donations) and paid lobbying our politicians will continue to be the LAP DOGS of the corporations and special interests. What we need first and foremost is real, loop-hole free CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM!!!! If the corruption is not dealt with first, the chance of any other meaningful reforms becoming a reality is almost zero - the special interests will just use their money to buy votes and put forward bills that create loop-holes or otherwise twist the law in their favor. If we want our children to live in a country where there vote matters, we need to get the money out of our politics, otherwise they will increasingly become the 21st century version of the "landless peasant." Spread the word - End the LEGALIZED BRIBERY!!! CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM needs to be THE main goal of the protests!!!

[-] 1 points by smartguy2 (17) 12 years ago

The government is our lord and savior. How DARE you speak negatively of them!! You better go to your local congressman and repent.

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 12 years ago

Sec. 131. But though men, when they enter into society, give up the equality, liberty, and executive power they had in the state of nature, into the hands of the society, to be so far disposed of by the legislative, as the good of the society shall require; yet it being only with an intention in every one the better to preserve himself, his liberty and property; (for no rational creature can be supposed to change his condition with an intention to be worse) the power of the society, or legislative constituted by them, can never be supposed to extend farther, than the common good; but is obliged to secure every one's property, by providing against those three defects above mentioned, that made the state of nature so unsafe and uneasy. And so whoever has the legislative or supreme power of any common-wealth, is bound to govern by established standing laws, promulgated and known to the people, and not by extemporary decrees; by indifferent and upright judges, who are to decide controversies by those laws; and to employ the force of the community at home, only in the execution of such laws, or abroad to prevent or redress foreign injuries, and secure the community from inroads and invasion. And all this to be directed to no other end, but the peace, safety, and public good of the people. http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtr09.htm

[-] 1 points by jessyjames (8) 12 years ago

we will never give up OUR liberty- "give us liberty or give us death"- and since its the privileged class who paid off this us government to take AWAY OUR LIBERTY- We will come after both of those rich greedy bastards.

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 12 years ago

deep sigh

You aren't giving up your liberty. You are giving up the liberty you had in the state of nature.

[-] 1 points by laptop (11) 12 years ago

deep sign- shit i thought i was stupid? she has me beat by a mile.

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 12 years ago

are you?